21G.221 | Spring 2019 | Undergraduate

Communicating in American Culture(s)


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hrs /session



Course Description

In 21G.221 Communicating in American Culture(s), bilingual students examine how various aspects of American culture—history, geography, institutions, traditions, values—have shaped dominant Anglo-American communication norms and responses to critical events in the world. In addition, you can expect to practice and strengthen your analytical and communication skills in a carefully scaffolded manner, starting with frequent short writing and speaking tasks and progressing to longer, more formal tasks.

Course Format, Etiquette, and Expectations

As a CI-H (Communication Intensive in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences) subject, 21G.221 provides many opportunities to engage with and create written, spoken, and visual texts. You can expect to write and revise a minimum of 5,000 words (a total of 20 double-spaced pages over 15 weeks) in a variety of genres.

The course is conducted as a workshop: it is highly interactive, with most class time devoted to discussion, exercises, peer review of texts, and short presentations. The assignments are designed to provide you the chance to delve more deeply into aspects of American cultures and communication patterns that you find particularly interesting.

The course draws on a range of multimedia materials—written, visual, audio, and video. You are expected to be familiar with the assigned materials for each class session. But the materials cannot be considered a substitute for the content and activities that comprise class periods. Much of the success of 21G.221—as well as the benefit you derive from it—will depend on your preparing well to be an active listener as well as an informed and constructive participant.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the semester, you will (1) recognize the fundamental role of culture in communication, (2) understand the context and practices of many communication norms and rituals of mainstream American culture, and (3) know more about your own cultural communication style.

You can expect to practice and strengthen your communication skills in a variety of genres: e.g., the job search, networking, meetings, presentations, memos, and a multi-part white paper. You will be able to

  • Analyze the needs and expectations of your reading and listening audiences.
  • Identify and overcome barriers to crafting communications according to academic genre conventions and professional expectations.
  • Refine your critical thinking skills by asking productive questions and seeking rigorous answers.
  • Communicate results that demonstrate critical thinking to your audience.

Smart phones and laptops are not welcome except when their occasional use is explicitly invited for in-class activities.

Required Materials

  1.  Gonick, Larry. (2005). The Cartoon History of the United States. NY: Collins. ISBN: 9780062730985.
  2. Assigned readings, video clips, and still images. Please print out the assigned readings for each period and bring them to class.
  3. A folder with pockets to hold print-outs of readings, assignment drafts, etc.
  1. Lyall, Sarah. Abroad in America (New York Times newsletter).
  2. World Values Survey.
  3. Government of Canada, Centre for Intercultural Learning. Country Insights.
  4. Pew Global Attitudes Project.

Attendance, Participation, and Grading

Please be familiar with the course schedule and study the assigned materials so that you are informed and can contribute appropriately to class discussions. Fifteen percent of your grade is based on punctuality, attendance, familiarity with the required texts, timely completion of assignments, and constructive contributions to class discussions.

You are expected to take responsibility for any unavoidable tardiness or absences (e.g., an off-campus job interview) by notifying me in advance whenever possible, and by consulting with a classmate to learn what was covered in the class that you missed. Those who do not prepare, contribute to discussions, complete (and hand in) assignments on time, and attend class regularly will not receive an A for the course.

AssignmentS Due dateS PORTION of grade
Attendance, preparedness, and participation Every class 15%
Short (approx. 250 words) written responses: 6 X 2.5 points Weeks 2–10 15%
Short (approx. 2 min.) formal oral responses: 2 X 5 points Weeks 2 and 12 10%
Memoir on educational history: first version Week 4 5%
Memoir on educational history: final version (1,000 words) Week 6 10%
Cultural film analysis of Breaking Away Week 9 10%
White paper: draft proposal and annotated bibliography draft (1,000 words) Week 11 5%
White paper: final proposal and annotated bibliography Week 13 5%
White paper (1,250 words) Week 14 or 15 10%
Team presentation: group Week 14 or 15 10%
Team presentation: individual Week 14 or 15 5%

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2019